THEOLOGICAL education must be updated urgently to include teaching on the environmental crisis, if church leaders are to be equipped to minister during the climate emergency, a consultation has concluded.
The report The Environment in UK Theological Institutions followed a two-day consultation with tutors and leaders of training colleges, organised by A Rocha UK and the John Ray Initiative.
The report says: “As the environmental crisis deepens this century, it is vital that we provide training and formation for ministers to be effective leaders and ministers of the Gospel in the challenging contexts that they are likely to face.
“They will be ministering in communities who might be impacted by severe weather events, future pandemics, challenges of land use change and potential food shortages. They will be part of a global church, with communities in low income countries facing even more severe outcomes with few resources to meet them. They will be seeking to engage and support young people who are deeply committed to eco justice.”
Ministers will also need to support people suffering from mental-health issues as a result of the crisis, the report says.
The Theology and Education Director of the John Ray Initiative, the Revd Margot Hodson, said: “The imperative is both missional and theological. Today’s students will be ministering in communities facing major environmental challenges, impacting on poverty, justice, and mental health.
“As community leaders, they will be facilitating huge shifts in lifestyle and community living to respond to the crisis. They will need to be resourced theologically, missiologically, and practically to live out an effective message of hope in this challenging and uncertain world.”
A report from Tearfund earlier this year found that a lack of leadership from the Church on the climate might prompt young people to leave the Church (News, 12 February).
Theological education should include teaching on the environmental issues themselves, and environmental theology, as well as help students to develop sustainable lifestyle habits while they were studying, the consultation’s report concluded. It said that institutions should also lead by example and model good practice in their use of buildings, food, and transport.
The report is at jri.org.uk